Portland Christmas Revels

The Christmas Revels is an annual, professionally-staged production put on each year by the Portland Revels in celebration of the winter solstice. The show is set in a different location/time period each year, and always has lots of singing, dancing, drama, and audience participation. The adult chorus consists of about 35 unpaid members who all have ordinary day jobs, but love singing in their spare time!

In 2012 I auditioned to sing in the adult chorus, but was not cast. In the years that followed, I kept auditioning until I was finally accepted for my first Revels show in 2014! I was super excited for this. A full report from my first show is at the end of this page.

The Christmas Revels 2016 - "Commedia Italiana"

Following my "abscence" in 2015, I performed in the 2016 show known as "Commedia Italiana."

Our story was set in late-renaissance Venice, Italy. This was by far one of the best themes Portland Revels has ever done - the music, costumes, stage sets, and so on were simply astounding.

In this story, the very bored Doge of Venice runs away with a Commedia dell'Arte troupe, leaving Beltrame de la Gippa, Il Commisario della Cultura to assume his reign. Zaniness insues. The Commedia troupe (consisting of Il Dottore, Pantalone, Arlecchino, Columbina, and Isabella) wants to be in the Solstice Festival, but Beltrame wants only the finest of performers, not vile comedians! They even pulled audience members onstage to sing (and act out...) The 12 Days of Christmas with us.

In addition to Revels music and familiar Christmas songs, our 2016 show featured selections by Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni da Palestrina, Tomas Luis de Victoria, and many others. A few madrigals were also included. But by far, the absolute highlight of our show was the transition from the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance (a Revels tradition - spooky, ritualistic done in the dark, with antlers to a solo recorder) to the Solstice Festival. After they exit, the lights go up and the brass plays a instrumental, fanfare piece. Then, Beltrame enters wearing a huge mask and announces "Welcome to my Solstice Festival" in Italian, as colorful banners drop down from behind the arches and the chorus enters, fully masked, in a grand processional/entrance dance. During the applause, the band plays a few more bars of music as we move into positions for an absolutely stunning rendition of Monteverdi's Beatus Vir.

Here are a few audio samples (not sung by us).

  • "Jesu! Rex Admirabilis" (Palestrina), as performed by the Monteverdi Choir.
  • "Donne, Venete Al Ballo" (Francesco Patavino), as performed by the Hilliard Ensemble.
  • "Jesu, Dulcis Memoria" (Victoria), as performed by the Cambridge Singers.
    • Note: We sang this in Bb Minor.
  • "Beatus Vir" (Monteverdi), as performed by the Choir of Salisbury Cathedral.
    • Note: We sang an abbreviated version of this piece, around 4.5 minutes long with 2 large sections removed, most notably the Gloria Patri at the very end. We also had brass accompaniment to simulate a chamber organ.

In addition to an all-women's longsword dance in the Mummer's Play, there were also several traditional renaissance dances choreographed specifically for our show.

Learning the music for our 2016 show was definitely the hardest many of us have ever worked in Revels, but the payoff was amazing. Until next year - who knows what the 2017 show may bring!

The Christmas Revels 2015 - "Celtic Crossing"

I auditioned for the 2015 show (all returning cast members are required to do so), and unfortuantely was not cast. Sadly, this is simply the nature of auditioned ensembles.

The Christmas Revels 2014 - "Keep Magic"

Our 2014 show, called "Keep Magic," was set in the Tower of London around 1600. This was particularly cool since we got to sing truly some of the finest and best renaissance music out there. Not to mention the set, costumes, and dances were all fantastic as well.

The story began with a young, very bored teen who is transported back in time to 17th-century England. There, she meets Henry Percy the Wizard Earl, Sir Walter Raleigh, a Yeoman Warder, a prankster, and many others. Lots of adventures follow as she must find out how to return home. At the end of the performance, the sun returns and we all sing holiday blessings to the audience from the aisles!

And here I am in full costume! (Photo credit to Steve Black.) Most of the costumes were rented from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival down in Ashland, OR.

Some of the music included selections by Giovanni da Palestrina, Michael Praetorius, William Byrd, as well as more familiar Christmas songs. Our 2 major choral anthems were "Sicut Cervus" by Palestrina, and "Sing Joyfully" by Byrd.

Here are a few audio samples (not sung by us).

  • "Sing Joyfully" (Byrd), as performed by the Exultate Chamber Choir.
  • "Sicut Cervus" (Palestrina), as performed by the Voices of Ascension.
  • "Psallite" (Praetorius), as performed by the Vancouver Chamber Choir.

Lots of dancing was featured as well, such as Border Morris dancing, rapper sword dancing, and English Country dancing. My loving "stage wife" Gabby even dragged me into doing one of the country dances with her. :)

Needless to say, the 3 years of effort it took to be in this show was worth it a thousand times over! Our 2014 show took a lot of work to put together, but it was a ton of fun. The Revels chorus, cast, community, and artistic support are easily some of the best I have ever worked with.